Consumer testing of the acceptability and effectiveness of front-of-pack food labelling systems for the Australian grocery market

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The placement of nutrition information on the front of food packages has been proposed as a method of providing simplified and visible nutrition information. This study aimed to determine the most acceptable and effective front-of-pack food labelling system for Australian consumers. Consumers' preferences and ability to compare the healthiness of mock food products were assessed for different front-of-pack labelling systems. Four systems were tested, including two variations of the Percentage Daily Intake system (Monochrome %DI and Colour-Coded %DI), which displays the proportion of daily nutrient contribution that a serve of food provides; and two variations of the Traffic Light (TL) system (Traffic Light and Traffic Light + Overall Rating), which uses colour-coding to indicate nutrient levels. Intercept surveys with 790 consumers were conducted, where each participant was exposed to a single labelling system for performance testing. Participants indicated strong support for the inclusion of nutrient information on total fat, saturated fat, sugar and sodium on the front of packages, and a consistent labelling format across all products. Using the TL system, participants were five times more likely to identify healthier foods compared with the Monochrome %DI system [odds ratio (OR) = 5.18; p < 0.001], and three times more likely compared with the Colour-Coded %DI system (OR = 3.01; p < 0.05). Consumers supported the introduction of consistent front-of-pack food labelling. The TL system was the most effective in assisting consumers to identify healthier foods. Mandatory TL labelling regulations are recommended to assist consumers in making healthy food choices.

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